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How to balance work and fertility treatments

One aspect of fertility treatments that many patients can overlook is the time commitment. It can often be difficult to balance doctor appointments, fertility treatment schedules, personal life, and a full-time job all at once. This article can provide strategies that you can use to help juggle all of your commitments for your particular situation and fertility treatment.

Balancing Work and Timed Intercourse

Timed intercourse is one of the first options couples turn to in order to optimize their chances of pregnancy. This strategy entails carefully planned out sexual intercourse during the 4-6 days of a woman’s “fertile window.” Having intercourse during the fertile window, which is about 5 days before and 24 hours after a woman ovulates, can greatly increase chances of conception. While trying once during this fertile window helps, trying more often than that can give you higher chances of success.

Because the fertile window only lasts 4-6 days, the logistics of timed intercourse could possibly involve adjusting work schedules so both partners can be together during this time when chances of conception are highest. This might entail passing up a business trip, or adding intercourse into one’s schedule to ensure that both partners are making time for it. Since it can be difficult for a woman to know exactly when she is ovulating, it can also be helpful to use an ovulation tracker or predictor kit to provide a better idea of when couples should be having intercourse.

Balancing Work and IUI

The next most rigorous fertility treatment approach is intrauterine insemination (IUI), also commonly known as artificial insemination. For IUI treatment paired with oral medications like Clomid or Letrozole, a woman will typically see her doctor on the third day of her menstrual cycle, and return back to her clinic a week later for testing. A few days after, she will have the IUI procedure performed.

One major caveat of IUI is that the timing involved can be really delicate. You should not plan any travel or big meetings that could conflict with the clinic appointments or IUI procedure, because the success of the treatment is highly dependent on abiding by the particular treatment scheduling. The procedure itself is generally painless, so most women can return to work the same day after the treatment is finished. 

The next thing to consider with IUI is that success rates are much higher if the man’s sperm is fresh, meaning it is provided the same day, rather than frozen and thawed. This might require planning treatments and work schedules as a collaboration between both partners. However, if there is a chance that the male will not be available to provide fresh sperm the day of treatment, it can also be helpful to freeze sperm in advance as a backup measure.

Balancing Work and IVF

The most intensive fertility treatment for a woman or couple is in vitro fertilization (IVF). For the first step of the IVF process, a woman injects herself with hormones every night for 2 to 3 weeks. Most mornings will require the woman to go to her clinic for monitoring appointments, which can make business travel nearly impossible because not a single injection or appointment can be missed. Since morning appointments can be hectic, it is advisable to keep mornings at work as light as possible by opting to schedule meetings for later in the day. It is also important to budget in time for travel to and from the clinic. Because of the issue of timing, IVF patients recommend that you set expectations at work by mentioning that you might be running late for the few days that you have clinic appointments. 

If you are not comfortable disclosing the details of your fertility treatment with your boss or coworkers, one way to set workplace expectations can be to let your employer know that you have a few important, non-life threatening medical appointments coming up. This can also help reduce stress, as it will provide sound reasoning for possibly showing up late to work on specific days due to a busy clinic morning or traffic on the way back. 

Once a doctor has determined that the size and volume of the eggs in the ovaries look appropriate, the woman will be injected with a “trigger shot.” Egg retrieval surgery will then take place 36 hours later.2 The integrity of the IVF cycle is highly dependent upon timing here, so no work appointments should be scheduled that could possibly conflict with the trigger shot or the day of egg retrieval surgery.2 Since it can be difficult to exactly predict the trigger shot and egg retrieval far in advance, it might be best to keep schedules open or make tentative plans that can be shifted around. 

The day of egg retrieval surgery can be intense and emotional, with recovery times lasting for a day or up to a week. Partners and spouses are advised to be present on the day of retrieval for support. Once the eggs are retrieved and fertilized, patients will often have phone calls with doctors regarding updates on the development of their embryos, which will require flexibility with work meetings. It can also be difficult to concentrate at work during such an emotional, critical time of the IVF cycle when many embryos may not survive. 

After some embryos are successfully developed, they will have to be transplanted into a woman’s uterus. The scheduling of this embryo transfer is flexible, and it can happen days after the retrieval or months down the line. The days after the transfer can be agonizing and cause difficulty focusing at work as patients await for a positive pregnancy test to confirm that the embryo took hold. 

If multiple cycles of IVF are unsuccessful, many individuals and couples turn to an egg donor, sperm donor, or gestational carrier. The process of third party reproduction can take months or years, and add further complexity to the process. 

Striking a balance between fertility treatments and your job can be a challenging, but necessary, process to navigate. It can be helpful to have a plan before speaking with your boss about your upcoming treatment, such as whether you can work from home, stay later some days to make up for lost time, or have a coworker cover for you. However, you are entitled to time off work, regardless of your employer’s support. It is also important to decide how much you would like to disclose to your employer — not everyone might approve, or you might receive a very positive and supportive response. 

Regardless of your workplace struggles, it is essential that you put your own physical and emotional needs first by scheduling self-care, pulling back on extra commitments, and having a support system to help get you through the difficulties of fertility treatments.